For some time, my cricket-mad housemate has been badgering me to attend a match with him. No entreaties on my part for mercy, no threats to heckle the outfielders or suddenly burst forth into a rousing American baseball ditty at the earliest opportunity, no appeals to reason could dissuade my housemate from his quest to bring cricket to the ignorant masses.
I must admit that I have spent many hours mocking cricket on all the usual points: it is a sport that frequently runs into multiple days in a single game. They stop play for tea intervals. There are no sensible breaks like innings to allow the losing side to make up ground. The uniforms lack colour & joie de vivre. The radio commentary is so slow that they are frequently reduced to talking about rare birds sighted on the field, or types of cake that have been sent them by fans. All the field positions have silly, silly names.
Far from taking umbrage at all this mocking, it seems to have spurred CMH (cricket-mad housemate) to ever greater exertions to bring it into my favour, culminating in this insistence on going to a live match, and not just any live match. Nothing would suffice but that we should attend a match at Lord’s, the home of cricket. Hallowed ground to cricket-fanciers across the globe. And so it was that last Sunday we found ourselves at the Village Cup final.
Prior to attending the Village Cup final, CMH & I could not for the life of us remember the names of the villages who were going to play. We would say to one another: “It’s next Sunday, isn’t it, that we’re going to see the cricket? Who’s playing again? Lesser Chippington versus Budleigh Meadows? Upper Egglesbury versus Havering Norton? Henley-on-the-Green versus Tunbridge Mews?”
In the event, we were presented with the two most archetypically named English villages ever to test their sporting mettle: Woodhouse Grange against Great and Little Tew. Match day dawned cloudy but turned into a fine, crisp early autumn afternoon. Gentle sunlight filtered down onto the emerald green field, exactly as though we were in one of the lesser Wodehouse novels. Around us the gentle buzz of the crowd, the muffled pop of the occasional champagne cork, and quietly dignified applause. Part of the crowd was doing this, anyway. The other part was busy with pork pies, flat caps and heckling the umpires. We quickly adopted a policy of applauding equally for both sides, which seemed to be perfectly acceptable to all parties.
I admit, I warmed to cricket when I realised we could leave the grounds to have a full English breakfast at nearby greasy spoon and come back without missing any crucial elements of play. Nobody seemed to mind in the least when I wandered off to potter around in the rose garden for a bit. Another friend of ours arrived in the middle of the afternoon bearing a most welcome infusion of cava. CMH then had to spend half an hour re-explaining all the major & minor points of cricket upon which which he’d spent a rather trying spell earlier in the day attempting to enlighten me. Shortly after this a person a few rows behind us caught a very high-flying ball, causing general glee and admiration throughout the crowd. In short, a good time was had by all and I realise now that my prior criticisms were both base and unfounded. Any sport where you can get away with taking a light snooze in the stands in the middle of the afternoon is okay by me.
Alas for Oxfordshire, the combined sporting might of both Great and Little Tew was not enough to vanquish the mighty Woodhouse Grange. I hope they felt that their day at Lord’s was rewarding nonetheless. Mine certainly was.